There was more beef in Brandon than there has been in a long time, at the Keystone Centre, as the Provincial Exhibition of Manitoba hosted the 2012 Manitoba Livestock Expo.
"It’s been a great week and we’ve had record numbers of cattle in the barns," expo co-chair Ron Kristjansson said. "We’ve had to squeeze the cattle in where ever we could find spots for them."
Registration numbers confirmed what Kristjansson believed, an almost 50 per cent increase in the number of registered competitors at the expo.
Kristjansson said it’s just part of the growing confidence in the beef industry within the province and country.
"(Transcon’s National Trust) sale, which this is the first year we’ve ever hosted it, really attracted some great cattle and that brought our numbers up and for the first time in a lot of years there is an optimism in the cattle industry," Kristjansson said.
The optimism comes almost a full decade after most countries shut their door to Canadian cattle following the discovery of a single cow infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy, more commonly known as mad cow disease, in 2003. Some of those trading partners have only recently re-opened or relaxed bans on Canadian Cattle, providing additional markets for Canadian beef.
"It really affected herd numbers and animals staying that were past thier time and it’s taken us this long to get our feet back under us," Kristjansson said.
With BSE behind them, producers have reason to look forward as strong prices dominate the beef market.
However, other challenges such as skyrocketing input costs, droughts and floods mean the positive outlook is met with some caution.
"The grain and cattle industry are obviously linked together and there is some concern about rising costs," Kristjansson said. "We’ve had producers right around Brandon, some in flood situations and others in drought situations within a few miles of each other with in a month. Mother Nature plays some interesting games with cattle producers, but they seem to carry on and stay optimistic."
Mother Nature also wiped out most of the corn crop in the United States’ midwest with a prolonged drought. While the drought has been a boon for grain farmers, it has added stress for some cattle producers.
"Some areas have had hay shortages and some hay is moving from this part of the world to the (United States) for pretty high prices which makes it hard for some of our cattle producers," Kristjansson said. "It makes it hard to find hay and some of the prices just don’t work for our guys, but they’ll find other options."
The expo featured several breeds of cattle, including Charolais, Simmental, Hereford and Angus. Kristjansson said it’s an important avenue for producers to market their best cattle.
"Bringing them here and having them compete against others and getting your name out there is important because for the purebred guys especially, they are out there trying to sell bulls to pure bred breeders or commercial breeders," Kristjansson said. "Here you can stack your cattle up against the other guys and see how they fare."
Barclay Smith travelled all the way from Alberta to show his string of Simmental bulls and heifers.
"For us it’s all about advertising and promotion," Smith said. "We sell bulls every spring and you have to be out there in the public’s eye trying to get noticed so people will buy cattle from us."